Features

Portrait of An Artist: Inside the Brain of North’s Stella Li

By Tanika Mally

Arts & Review Editor

Senior Stella Li grew up with art as a constant presence throughout her life. Her relationship with it initially began as a “monkey-see-monkey-do” activity that was introduced to her by her older sister. According to Li, one of the main reasons she began drawing and taking lessons was because she saw her sister do the same, and in younger sibling fashion, Li merely wanted to imitate whatever she was doing as well.  “There was obviously this natural fascination with art and human perception that pushed me to continue” voiced Li. “Why else would I be here now?” 

After years of perseverance and passion, Li stands as an established artist at High School North.  The Knightly News has featured some of her works as an artist as well. Art, however, is just one of many of Li’s hobbies. In her free time, Li finds herself writing and has been recognized by the Scholastic Arts and Writing awards, the National Poetry Quarterly, and Kenyon Review Short Non Fiction contest. She is also a violinist, and a part of the High School North swim team. 

Developing one’s art style is something that takes years and years to cultivate. Despite being an artist for years (starting in preschool), Li is no exception. In the past, Li would find herself heavily focusing on more realistic/semi-realistic portraitures, but in recent years has sought to branch outside her comfort zone and explore other aspects and perspectives of art she’d not considered before.  

“To be quite honest, I haven’t found my own style yet. A lot of my creation process involves looking at art that isn’t my own, so when I find a piece or artist that I love, I tend to spend a period of time imitating their style, kind of picking out the bits and pieces I like most from each artist and amalgamating them into something that’s slowly becoming my own.” 

In a digital era where anything and everything is available online, social media has become a huge inspiration for most of Li’s works. From Seoul-based artist Lee K. (@leekillust) to UK-based painter Anontia Pang (@antoniapang_) to American sketch artist Eliza Ivanova (@eleeza), Li’s engagement spans worldwide. During her time in quarantine, she admits that she has consumed more art through social media than ever before as it gets her creativity flowing.

Still, every artist can be a victim to burnout. Li mentions how almost every artist has a love-hate relationship with their work, and that oftentimes, this can make it difficult work.  “Of course, it can get frustrating sometimes, since there are moments when I’ll be bothered by something I can’t exactly pinpoint, but these challenges are a part of the process and push me to grow.” 

Nonetheless, Li has her own effective methods for avoiding artists’ block.

“As for getting out of creative ruts in general, I try to get up and move a little– even if it’s going downstairs for fifteen minutes or taking a walk around the neighborhood, detaching myself from the physical and mental space I’ve associated with ‘work’ and ‘creation’,” revealed Li. 

“I think there’s a lot of pressure on artists, people in general, to constantly be creating since the cultural expectations in our community and across America force us to tie productivity to self-worth,” said Li. “But it’s important to allow yourself breaks, not only for mental health purposes, but also because artistic quality always improves after a period of rest and renewed inspiration.” 

Despite her successes with art in high school, Li has established that she won’t be pursuing the arts as a career. “I hope I’ll be able to make more time for art as a hobby,” Li expressed. “But as of right now, I don’t plan on studying or getting a degree in art or any of its sub-disciplines.’’ 

The future of Li and her art might be unbeknownst to us now, but her love for creating mesmerizing works will live at North forever. “One of the great things about creative work and the mental gymnastics that comes with it is this sense of self-discovery,”admits Li.  “You learn new things about yourself, almost like you’re in a do-it-yourself therapy session.”

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